On his 27th birthday, let’s review Miguel Sanó’s up-and-down Twins career.
Sanó, a shortstop at the time, was widely regarded as the top free agent teenage prospect in Latin America in 2009. At just 16 years old, Sanó signed for $3.15 million with the Twins and began his trek to Minnesota.
Sanó thrived in rookie ball. As an 18-year-old, he hit .292/.352/.637 with 20 home runs and 18 doubles in 66 games for Elizabethton.
Gaining strength and power, Sanó bashed 28 more homers in 129 games for Single-A Beloit in 2012.
Sanó began his age-20 season in Fort Myers and hit .330 with a 1.079 OPS before being moved to Double-A New Britain in June.
MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No.3 prospect in baseball in 2013.
Sanó was quickly moving toward his MLB debut when he suffered an elbow injury in spring training 2014. The injury required Tommy John surgery and he was forced to miss the entire season.
He returned to Chattanooga in 2015 at Double-A to hit .274/.374/.544 with 15 homers in 66 games. After a dominant 10-for-15 stretch, the Twins deemed him ready for the bigs.
Sanó made his major league debut on July 2, 2015 in Kansas City. In his first four games with the Twins, he went 6-for-15 (.400). Sanó hit .261 with a .913 OPS (149 OPS+) and 18 homers in the final 76 games of his rookie season.
While leading the Twins in homers and RBIs to start the 2016 season, Sanó hit the IL with a hamstring injury in early June.
He missed a month and hit 14 more home runs upon recovery, finishing with 25 bombs in 116 games. He struck out 178 times and led the league with a 36% strikeout rate, just ahead of teammate Byron Buxton (35.6%).
Sanó had a tremendous first half of 2017. He hit .276/.368/.538 with 21 homers and was voted into his first All-Star game.
On August 18, he fouled a ball off his shin and played only four more games the rest of the year.
Sanó strained his hamstring again in April of 2018 and missed 24 games. In the 17 games after his return, he hit an abysmal .191/.247/.353 with 30 strikeouts in 73 plate appearances (41% K-rate).
The Twins moved him to Single-A in mid-June, then Triple-A a month later. He finally flew back to Minnesota in late July and hit .195 with a .684 OPS and 49 strikeouts in his final 136 plate appearances (36% K-rate).
His career at a crossroads, Sanó fully bought in prior to the 2019 season. He played in the Dominican Winter League and suffered a freak injury at the championship parade. He missed the first 42 games of the season.
He hit .253 with a .948 OPS and seven homers in his first month back.
The next chapter wasn’t as rosy. Sanó underwent a truly horrifying stretch, going 5-for-42 with 23 strikeouts (55% K-rate).
With fans calling for him to be sent down again, Sanó overhauled his swing with James Rowson and made the haters bite their tongues.
From June 28 on, he led all American League third basemen in homers (25) and hard-hit rate (54.1%), and finished second to Alex Bregman in OPS (.994), wRC+ (156), and offensive fWAR (20.8). He was monstrous.
The Twins rewarded him with a shiny extension this winter, locking him up through 2023.
Sanó excitedly moved over to first base to make room for Josh Donaldson, making up a potentially historic duo at the corners.
So, what can we expect from Sanó moving forward?
Well, more homers and strikeouts.
Sanó leads baseball in strikeout rate among players with at least 1,500 plate appearances since 2016.
In 2019, Sanó finished second to Aaron Judge in average exit velocity (94.4 MPH).
Sanó led all of baseball in hard-hit percentage (57.2%) and barrel percentage per batted-ball event (21.2%), finishing ahead of Judge, Nelson Cruz, Gary Sánchez, and Mike Trout.
In other words, his insane home run numbers weren’t fake. Regression has been a hot-button word for the Twins after setting the home run record last year, but Sanó’s insane 2019 numbers are backed and confirmed by almost every metric.
This may surprise you, but Sanó is actually a very disciplined hitter. His 26.2% chase rate is below league average, but his contact rate is also far below league average.
He has a lot of swing-and-miss in his profile, but he chases at an admirable rate. When he makes contact, he smashes it. He owns the Statcast record for hard-hit percentage in a single season among qualifiers since they started tracking it in 2015.
His 12.5% walk rate in 2019 was over 50% higher than league average.
Yes, Sanó strikes out a lot. He also walks a lot. The “strikeout or home run” tag, while not a terrible one to be pegged with, is simply incorrect.
His approach is well-constructed and one that should continue to provide results. He lays off poor pitches well and punishes strikes, a formula for success.
The fan base is incredibly hard on Sanó. His mistakes off the field and his slumps on it have turned many fans away. The strikeouts, especially among baseball traditionalists, are super unattractive.
His majestic homers make up for some of it, but there will always be a fraction of the fan base that simply doesn’t like him.
That’s fine, but as he continues to destroy baseballs, it’s going to get more and more difficult to not love his game. It’s time to embrace Sanó for what he is, an imperfect baseball player and human, just like everyone else.
Whether you like it or not, he is a franchise mainstay and expressed his desire to remain in Minnesota for the long haul.
How he will fare defensively at first remains to be seen, but his bat is going to play.
The future is very bright for Mr. Miguel Sanó. His prime is upon us. Happy birthday, Miguel!